Last year at this time, Wisconsin winter was sweltering in record high temperatures and less than stellar snow conditions – all but shutting down most traditional winter activities. Luckily, a fatbike addition to my stable of bikes made the season more than enjoyable, even if I rode alone on dirt instead of snow. What a difference a year makes.
The other night a friend commented to me how many fatbikes there are out in the wild now. Yet despite the growing numbers I realized, that except for one race last year, I never rode with another soul during the 2011-2012 snow season. That’s sure changed in this winter. Even before the first flakes fell in 2012, I preached the gospel of big-tired bicycles, all but ignoring the other more svelte mountain bikes hanging in my garage. Perhaps in part due to my proselytizing, this winter I have no shortage of fatbikin friends.
Although Levis Mound in southern Clark County is well know for it’s mountain bike singletrack and cross country ski trails, suddenly this year with real snow on the ground, it has also become a destination for the big bikes. With several enthusiastic new riders taking the helm, the Levis singletrack has become a packed ribbon of white through the forest and opened up a whole new opportunity for riding. They’ve tackled the snow with shovels, snowmobiles, drags and even tile rollers (which is very effective at packing) to create a wonderful riding experience. Yes, you can ride a fatbike in unpacked snow, but with a frozen smile on my face New years Day, a group of us flew along on flowy snowy singletrack provided by these trail builders. Their work was well worth it. That’s not to say the pedaling is effortless-we did a six mile loop and our legs had all they could handle pulling back into the warm chalet. Even moderate terrain became a fun, almost trials like ride though some sections just to clean it.
Of course, beyond the undertaking of rolling though snow, there are other unique challenges. Levis has plenty of bridges spanning creeks and low spots, so balancing even those wide tires on snow and ice covered planking often left a couple of us dropping off (to be chided by the rest!). Berms formed by the packing roller became either a hoot to corner into or a front wheel grabber tossing riders to the snow covered ground. Either way…fun.
As an “elder” of the group, I couldn’t help but sit back and smile while I listened to the excited chatter from the new converts during the post ride warm down while enjoying a cold beverage (somehow it makes sense-trust me). There was talk of how much fun the ride was, the awesome condition of the trail, where to expand, what equipment worked well (in trail building and riding) and arranging the next group ride. Of the dozen fatbikers pushing pedals that day, all were ready to set times and dates for the next adventure, and it wouldn’t take long-they all be back in a couple days.
I realized in just a year, my days of riding a fatbike alone are over, (although there is nothing wrong with that …and I’ll continue) but damn, it sure is fun to share the love with others who have partaken in the fatbike koolaide and aren’t afraid to step out the door into snow and cold, don a helmet and crank pedals-all with a smile on.